Archaeologists discover seafood on menu of ancient emperor who lived 1,000 miles from the sea

08:58, November 02, 2010      

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Ancient Chineseemperors in inland China may have dined on seafood that came from the eastern China coast more than one thousand miles away, archaeologists said Friday, after investigating an imperial mausoleum that dates back 2,000 years.

"We discovered the remains of sea snails and clams among the animal bone fossils in a burial pit," said Hu Songmei, a Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology researcher.

"Since the burial pit appears to be that of the official in charge of the emperor's diet, we conclude that seafood must have been part of the imperial menu," Hu said.

The discovery was made in the Hanyang Mausoleum in the ancient capital of Chang'an, today's Xi'an City in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The monument is the joint tomb of Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-8 AD) Emperor Jing and his empress. Archaeology at the mausoleum began in the 1980s.

Since 1998, researchers from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology have been excavating the burial pit east of the mausoleum.

Of the 43 animal fossils discovered in the pit, archaeologists found more than 18 kinds of animals, including three kinds of sea snails and one kind of clam.

"The ancient people believed in the afterlife. They thought the dead could possess what they had when they were alive," said Hu.

Many royal tombs were designed and constructed like the imperial palace. The burial pits usually represented different departments of the imperial court, Hu said. "The discovery of animal fossils in this particular pit may shed light on what the emperor ate everyday."

Ge Chengyong, the chief editor of Chinese Culture Relics Press, said, "The seafood may have been tribute offered to the emperor by imperial family relatives living on the Chinese coast. It may also have been businessmen that brought them inland to the capital city."

Xi'an is more than one thousand miles away from the Chinese coast, so how could it have arrived in the capital without first spoiling?

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